Province ponies up for Hwy. 26
COLLINGWOOD — After five years, the province has announced it will be completing the reconstruction of the 1.6 kilometres of Highway 26 from the Sixth Line to Pretty River Parkway.
It was an something Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper has been waiting a long time to hear. Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca made the announcement at a press conference Thursday morning in Collingwood.
“This is an announcement that I am really happy to make today because I have heard from your mayor and I have heard from the warden and I have heard from a number of other people of the importance of this critical infrastructure project — critical for the economy and also critical for the quality of life in Collingwood and, really, for the entire area,” Del Duca said.
This section of highway will be widened to five lanes, with a median shared turning lane, a significant difference from the two lanes that are there now.
The four through lanes will match what exists in the sections of Highway 26 in the areas immediately east and west of the project limits, Del Duca said. Other improvements will include the reconstruction and widening of the intersection of Highway 26 and Hume Street, Pretty River Parkway, closure of Sixth Line at Highway 26 with a cul-de-sac, connecting Highway 26 with an extension of Sanford Fleming Drive and construction of a recreational trail on the north side, and a sidewalk on the south side between Pretty River Parkway and Marine View Drive.
Tendering of the project is scheduled in early 2018 and construction will begin in the spring, Del Duca said.
Although there is no cost estimate, because tenders have not been submitted, the project is part of a $160-billion transportation infrastructure pledge over the next 12 years.
“This part of the highway is travelled by 22,000 vehicles every single day. The work will help people to get where they have to go quickly and safely ...” said Del Duca.
No one seemed happier with the announcement than Cooper.
“I can hardly get the smile off my face. What wonderful news. (It) has been a number of years that I have been encouraging the province to make an investment in Highway 26, not only for the local economy with our residents and local industries but also with those visitors who come from across Ontario," said Cooper.
Work stopped on the highway in 2012 after a provincial program called Connecting Links ended.
“The project stopped where it did five years ago because the ... funding ended, and that was throughout Ontario. One time when I went to the (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) conference, the mayors from Connecting Links communities met with the minister of transportation and we told him that this was strongly affecting the vibrancy and economy of our communities and it is very costly. It's not a municipal infrastructure; it is a provincial one,” said Cooper. “I think, from that, it started the province looking at it and asking how can we support upgrades to the infrastructure.”
With work also including trails and sidewalks, the plan helps Collingwood reinforce it’s active transportation mandate.
“In Collingwood, we have active transportation included there such as the trails and concrete sidewalks that are a little bit wider than in the town proper. We've partnered with Wasaga Beach with this Highway 26 project to put money into a trail section along Beachwood Road ..."
"So, we have to provide that infrastructure for other means of transportation,” said Cooper.
Simcoe County Warden Gerry Marshall was also smiling after the announcement.
“It certainly is great news for the County of Simcoe. This is a regional investment as well if you think about Collingwood and tourism in the County of Simcoe. We have some nine million tourists visit us each year,” said Marshall. “About three million travel up this section of the road. So, from a tourism point of view, it is an incredible investment."
Marshall also spoke of the benefits the reconstruction will bring to other communities and industries.
“If you think about the Town of Wasaga Beach, they have undertaken about a billion dollars (in work for) their downtown corridor, so this investment helps that investment happen.”